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At the Mountains of Madness - A book review

Anyone else find it weird that all you currently see in the "Recommended" or "Trending" lists on Netflix are post-apocalyptic films? One would think that escapism in the time of plague would come in more light-hearted forms, yet it seems most people's response to a world going a bit mad is to dive into a fictional world where the world has gone utterly mad, shot itself and is now slowly decomposing. "Book of Eli" was good, though.

Still, I can't judge. My reading material right now has a fairly tenebrous whiff about it – I started off with Dean Koontz (prompted by multiple rumours of one of his books containing a spooky prediction of a nasty virus in the year 2020), jumped from him to his long-time counterpart Stephen King, and have now backtracked to one of King's self-confessed inspirations: the horror nerd icon and beloved racist, Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Lovecraft also seems an apt choice of author in these days of seclusion, delusion and paranoia, as he was a notorious shut-in who spurned human contact in favour of written correspondence. There's also the small matter of his work containing an ever-present theme of humanity's general insignificance in the baleful eyes of a cold, uncaring world. But don't let that fool you, I'm sure he was a warm, delightful chap deep down. Very, very deep down.

Having just finished one of his better-known works, "At the Mountains of Madness," it's odd to find that those who dismiss him as a penny-dreadful horror hack, and those who praise him as one of the strongest influences on modern horror fiction, are both, in a way, equally correct. His writing style is like banging your head against a wall made of bricks and pretension, and his overly verbose prose is both unnecessarily florid and spectacularly dated. The relative lack of dialogue indicates that even he was aware of his own shaky grasp on face-to-face human interaction, but the subsequent focus on the narrator's first-person musings give the story a journal-like feel that lends authenticity to the events within.

When it comes to story and subject matter, his deftness is unquestionable. The story is narrated by an academic geologist who joins an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica, which encounters ancient forces that aren't too chuffed about sharing their icy domain with these irritatingly inquisitive human interlopers. The slow escalation of palpable dread, and the meticulous and colourful descriptions of the eldritch horrors the expedition runs afoul of, combine to make the story pure nightmare fuel. It plays extremely well on the age-old perception of Antarctica as a huge, hostile frontier currently almost untouched by the constant metastasizing of human civilisation. Lovecraft was fond of using the unexplored regions of the planet, particularly the ocean, as a domain for some very old/big/nasty things who have spent aeons slumbering in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to awaken and reclaim a world usurped by those pesky little homo sapiens. He himself put it best: "the oldest and strongest emotion is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is the fear of the unknown."

At the Mountains of Madness is technically a novella, and even with Lovecraft's customary long-windedness (which some have colloquially and not-inaccurately referred to as "verbal diarrhoea") the e-book version currently available to all library members on Wheelers is a modest 111 pages, making this the perfect story for horror/science fiction connoisseurs to devour on one of these ever-chillier evenings, snuggled under a blanket or curled up by the fire with a glass of wine, warming yourself against the chill from the icy Antarctic winds that almost seem to emanate from the pages.

Anyone interested in perusing our fine selection of e-books and audiobooks can sign up on the Matamata-Piako Libraries website at www.matamatapiakolibraries.co.nz. After joining up as a Digital member, we will email you a membership number you can use to access our online resources. If you are already a member, these are included in your membership.

Information on accessing our e-books and audiobooks is available on our website, however for further assistance you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone during normal business hours:

027 558 3133 (Matamata Library)

027 641 9102 (Morrinsville Library)

027 614 8707 (Te Aroha Library)

By Ciaran (Library Assistant at Matamata-Piako Libraries).

Public computer news

A warm welcome back to all!
For those who've been missing our APNK Chromebooks and Chromestations, we now have a whole bunch of new applications up and running.
Anyone with a Microsoft account (this can be accessed with a Hotmail or Outlook email address) can now use Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel, making things like CV creation a breeze.
Also included are apps such as SumoPaint, Pixlr, and Chrome Canvas, which can be used to draw pictures and import or edit photos and other images, and tools such as Calculator, Camera, Web Store, MetService, Maori Dictionary, YouTube and more.
Finally, we've added two new games to our list of apps – Chess and Solitaire, which can be played against the computer or online with others. Enjoy!

 

Library Services at Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, returns slots will open and you will be able to start ordering books through our new Library Takeaway service.

We are re-opening on Saturday 23 May 9.30am – 12 pm and 1-3.30 pm. 

Please check our opening hours page for more times and our FAQs to keep yourself updated with the latest developments.

If you can't find what you need on this website, please call us. Te Aroha: 07 884 7047 or 027 614 8707, Morrinsville: 07 889 8388 or 027 641 9102 or Matamata: 07 888 7157 or 027 558 3133.

The secret life of books

Pick 'em up, read 'em, put 'em down again. That's about it with books, isn't it?

Wrong, as it happens. Turns out the humble book is more multi-purpose than we ever imagined. Check out some of the unexpected uses for those unassuming tomes…


book safeThe book safe
It's an actual thing. You can even learn how to make your own on Pinterest.

 

 


The book buildingbook igloo
Or, to be precise, the book igloo. Just watch that roof.

 

 


book pillowBook as pillow
We understand the best pillow is a 500-plus page paperback, well-thumbed, but clean. The jury is still out on whether knowledge from the book will actually seep into your brain as you sleep.

 


Book as furniturebook bench
This literary wonder resides at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

 

 

 

book benchBook as pest control
Not recommended, especially if you were thinking of using a library book. The very idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

book flowersBook as flower-press
Again, NOT with a library book. Please.

 

 


book xylothekBook as cata-log
Real name, xylothek. Books that are both made from wood, and feature wood specimens. Very popular in late 18th century Germany, apparently. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/xylothek

 

 

book nunchucksBooks as weapon of self-defencebook self defence
(Thanks to https://thebushwickbookclubseattle.com/ for this useful tip.) There are even instructional videos to show you how to wield that best-seller in a weaponly way.

 

Better still, carry this little gem in your handbag/manbag for every occasion. Hai-yah!

 

 

 

Do you have novel uses for books we haven't covered? Let us know, and we can publish them in The Secret Life of Books, Part Two.

Library Services at Alert Level 3

Now that we've taken our first tentative step out of the Level 4 lockdown, we thought it might be a good chance to update you on library services that will and won't be available during the long slog back to something resembling normality.

 

While our libraries will not be open to the public at this stage, our staff are still at work making sure the public have access to as many of our resources as possible. For those who have not yet checked our website, you will NOT be charged overdue fees for any items you have had checked out since the lockdown started. Our return slots are still closed, so hang on to them for now.

Our public Wi-Fi is now back! Please keep to physical distancing guidelines and at this stage it is only available 8am-8pm. Our many other internet-based delights are still very much up and running! The Online Resources page will direct you to a treasure trove of websites such as Ancestry, PressReader and Tumblebooks, where logging in with your library account details will provide you access to hours of genealogical joy, splendid stories, magnificent media publications and so on.  Check out our Bubble Busters and Build-A-Toddler Time for more delightful ways to keep yourself entertained and informed.

Also still available is our wide range of e-books and e-Audiobooks, which can be accessed on devices including tablets and smartphones, and can also be downloaded using your library account.

For those who might need a bit of guidance to access these resources, or those who might not remember the necessary login details, our librarians are happy to help. You can call us on 027 558 3133 (Matamata Library), 027 641 9102 (Morrinsville Library) or 027 614 8707 (Te Aroha Library), or just email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we'll sort you out.

Finally, for those who want to join up and see what all the fuss is about with this "reading" malarkey, head to our website and join online! Be sure to select "Digital Membership" and once you've signed up, we'll send you a membership number that will open the door to a veritable feast of boredom relievers.

Any other questions, just drop us a line – we'd love to hear from you!

Stay safe, and happy reading.

The Matamata-Piako Libraries Team